Assault on archaeologist triggers protests in Greece

March 14, 2023 GMT
CAPTION CORRECTS ASSAILANTS DETAILS - State-employed archaeologists in Greece hold placards as they launched strike action outside the Culture Ministry in Athens, on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, to protest the assault of an archaeologist on the island of Mykonos, in an attack they say may have been linked to commercial pressure to extend tourism development. Archaeologist Manolis Psarros was beaten by an unidentified man with a possible accomplice in Athens last week and was left unconscious and bleeding in the street. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
CAPTION CORRECTS ASSAILANTS DETAILS - State-employed archaeologists in Greece hold placards as they launched strike action outside the Culture Ministry in Athens, on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, to protest the assault of an archaeologist on the island of Mykonos, in an attack they say may have been linked to commercial pressure to extend tourism development. Archaeologist Manolis Psarros was beaten by an unidentified man with a possible accomplice in Athens last week and was left unconscious and bleeding in the street. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — State-employed archaeologists in Greece launched strike action Tuesday to protest an assault on an archaeologist responsible for the resort island of Mykonos, an attack they say may have been linked to commercial pressure to extend tourism development.

Manolis Psarros, an employee of the state archaeological service, was beaten by an unidentified man with a possible accomplice in Athens last week and was left unconscious and bleeding in the street. The 53-year-old was taken to a state hospital in the Greek capital and is currently recovering at home.

Archaeologists employed by the Culture Ministry staged a five-hour work stoppage to protest what their association described as a “mafia-style attack.”

Despina Koutsoumba, the head of the protesting archaeologists’ association, said Psarros has dealt with multiple cases involving alleged violations on Mykonos and had been called as a witness in the past in trials resulting from those cases.

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“He has no trouble in his personal life ‒ debts or anything like that ‒ that would justify anything like this. This was a professional attack,” Koutsoumba told The Associated Press.

“He was struck from behind before getting into his car. He lost consciousness and was hit after that. He has broken ribs and extensive bruising.”

The protest was joined by ministry employees in Athens as well as the national Association of Archaeological Conservators. They are seeking additional police protection for public officials involved in contentious inspections and will refuse to handle cases from Mykonos until the end of the month when they plan to visit the island.

Planning permission in Greece is often subject to a veto by the local archaeological service, which is tasked with protecting the country’s ancient heritage.

One of Greece’s best known holiday destinations, Mykonos was settled in ancient times and hosts an archaeological museum. It is located next to the tiny and uninhabited island of Delos, an ancient commercial, religious and political center that is considered one of Greece’s most important archaeological sites.

“There are problems caused by the high level of tourism development on many islands, but Mykonos is by far the worst,” Koutsoumba said.

The Culture Ministry condemned the assault, while Mykonos Mayor Constantinos Koukas described the beating as a “criminal and brazen attack that has shocked us all.”